Autumn is well and truly upon us now; this morning we had our first frost and beautiful views across the field, as the sun rose and the morning mist slowly crept away. The trees surrounding the barn are bejewelled with their autumnal fruits, and I keep eyeing up all the rowan trees hoping that this will be the year I get to see a waxwing stuffing itself on berries.
We’ve already introduced the children to brambling; mainly for them this consisted of falling in muddy puddles and adding to my, already huge, washing pile whilst I picked a few berries inbetween screaming at them to get out of aforementioned puddles. Fortunately, we were brambling with very generous neighbours who filled our tubs with fruit – which the children then squished into ‘war paint’, covering the bits of themselves not already muddied, in blackberry pulp. J and I decided to brave it again yesterday, we had a pretty big shopping list of blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and sloes – all required for boozey homebrewing purposes.
As soon as we headed out, the rain started, but as we live in Cumbria now this is perhaps to be expected and so, being stout of heart (and covered in waterproofs – not that kids will EVER keep their hoods up) we carried on regardless. We’d had a tip off from the farmer for some good sloe spots and headed for them first, fortunately there were only sheep in the first field – if there had been cows I may have wimped out at this point, I find the staring / mooing mix quite off putting. The kids had great fun leaping into piles of sheep poo whilst J and I got stuck into (literally at some points) picking sloes and rosehips whilst telling them to stop running towards the stunned sheep. Once we, and the sheep, got bored of this (and the poo was starting to smell following the repeated agitation) we headed off to a corn field where the only thing the kids could bother was the hay bales. Unfortunately on the way to the field were more Cumbrian sized puddles which the kids enjoyed wading through but once in the field they ran, and ran….and ran.
This gave me and J a moment’s peace to focus on the task at hand and more fruit was and gathered. And then we realised that not only were the kids soaked to the skin but also starting to agitate the hay bales. Time for home. After more screaming – of course.
We didn’t really get everything we’d set out for but we agreed the fruit for the English hedgerow port could be frozen and, if necessary, saved for next year.
We still have an unpillaged rose plant full of rosehips in the back garden and they’ll be about for a while, and so I still have my sights on rosehip wine in the not too distant future. But the haul of sloes was pretty decent and so our first lot of sloe gin is now infusing in the cupboard. We roughly followed the sloe gin recipe in CJJ Berry’s book (where the rosehip wine and the English hedgerow port recipes are also from) and I’m already dreaming of a boozey Christmas, courtesy of our bountiful harvest. Further trips are being planned as I type, the restorative effects of sloe gin can never be underestimated – especially when you have mud monsters for children.
Other high points of the week included finding a stunned robin who had flown into a window and nurturing him back into health with the use of a shoebox, and a quiet room away from the girl child who seemed to think rattling the box might help his recovery, and a return visit from a hedgehog who is currently fattening up on cat biscuits. Oh and thinking the farmer had some ‘freedom cows’ – so called because they’d escaped their field and joined in with another herd…”no, no, FRIESIAN cows”. Still struggling with that Cumbrian accent.